The zoo's newest area, Heart of Africa, has opened. I give tips on how to save money and make the most of your trip to the zoo.

Heart of Africa

The most significant change is the addition of the zoo's largest region. After walking through the gates and heading to the west, one will see signs to a "Shuttle" to take to get to the Heart of Africa, Polar Frontier and North America regions. Since there are usually many people with strollers, this is your best bet for getting to the new region quickly. Hop on the tram and then check out the day's activities when you get there on the board. That way, you can plan to see a show there if there's one that interests you. Also, if you want to ride a camel, which costs $7, you might want to get a ticket and get in line before viewing the rest of the region. In addition to the return of giraffes and zebras, the lions have been moved from Asia Quest to this region. Cheetahs, vervet monkeys, camels and a few other animals round out the region. Food, benches and learning spaces, such as a giant termite mound replica, animal and Africa-related quizzes help visitors get a feel for what the African region where the animals would normally be found is like.

Look at the information on the large flat TV screens located throughout the park.

Some attractions that cost money:

- Gem mining near North America costs $12 for a 5 lb. bag or $8 for a 3 lb. bag. It's set up like an actual mining sifter so you can use water to find your gems.

- Pony rides are offered near the barnyard on the way to Polar Express for $4 each. These are for ages 10 and younger. A photo booth allows you to get a strip for $5.

- Train rides are $3 for nonmembers or $2 for members. (Members include Zoombezi Bay pass holders.)

- Dinosaur Island near Australia and the Islands is a boat ride with animatronic dinosaurs. It costs $3 for nonmembers or $2 for members.


If your kids like rides, get the $9.99 ride wristband so that you can visit Stingray Bay, get unlimited rides on the train, carousel, Dinosaur Island and at Jungle Jack's Landing. Otherwise, most rides are $3 per person for nonmembers. Rides and attractions are $2 for nonmembers unless otherwise noted.

Buy the souvenir drink bottle for $9.99 and get future soda refills for $1. Use it all day, all season and into the next season.

If you have small children, take a wagon or stroller for them. There's plenty of stroller parking in designated areas. Take advantage of benches located throughout the park to take a break.

Plan on taking a break to sit down and watch the "Animals on Safari" show at noon, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. in the activities pavilion. It's shaded and you can give your feet a rest. The show is entertaining and about a half hour.

Take a backpack to put stuff in. Sunblock, bug spray, ponchos, cameras and phones, snack bags, a water bottle, sippy cup and your map can fit into this.

Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be pounding the pavement for hours, so don't wear basic flip flops.

Write down where you park or put it as a note in your phone. This can help you get out of the park quickly when it's time to leave.

If you have the extra money, consider spending it to do the "Wild Encounters" deal for an extra $20 per nonmember or $15 per member to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo.

Parking is $8. I usually try to park close to one of the parking lights with the letters on it on the left side and put up a sunshield to keep the car cool. A tram comes and picks people up and drops them off in the parking area from the middle walkway.

Military, groups and Franklin County residents get discounts on admission with valid I.D. Visit the website for details at